Three nights in Barcelona

Quick and cheap flights; the beauty of living in Europe! Before I jet off for my new job in China, I had to get one last holiday squeeze in! And I did think about volunteering on my week off however, the naughty devil on my shoulder told me to be selfish and just go wild for a few days instead. So, a quick call to my bestie (who is my naughty devil in real life!) and it was done! Three nights of fun in Barcelona with B. But how did we do it? People always ask me questions about my travels so here I am breaking it all down for you…

Before you do anything, SKYSCANNER.

Skyscanner is the only website you need when it comes to booking flights ever. It’s literally my best friend when I travel and has all the best prices and comparisons. We got our return flights to Barca and back for £40. Amazinggg.

Then if you’re not fussy, and you’re up for some fun and meeting new people, stay in a hostel. Our hostel was called HelloBCN and we paid £35 for 3 nights with breakfast included. I think hostels can be quite daunting if you’ve never done them before, but I absolutely love them now. They’re cheap, easy and fun, and our beds in this place were super comfy! They always have tours and activities going on which makes it so helpful when you’re in a new city.

DAY ONE

We had a daytime flight and went straight to our hostel by the metro which cost around $10 for us both. I heard a lot about safety and pickpockets on the metro, but it felt really safe and just like in any big city, you have to take care. We only had the evening, so we went to a nearby restaurant and filled up on all the Spanish foods! Tapas, paella and Sangria galore. The food is great, and Becca is a vegetarian, but we had no problems getting food at all. Try it all. It’s all fab.

DAY TWO

As I said before, hostels are great for budget-friendly and free tours and activities. We spent our first full day doing 2 free walking tours which were recommend by our hostel, but they’re open for everyone if you want to meet at 10:30am and 3pm outside the steps of the Barcelona Catedral. Free walking tours are amazing! You have a guide who knows all the info and history, you visit places that you might miss otherwise then you leave a tip of however much you think the tour was worth. We managed to see the Barcelona cathedral, the Sagrada Familia, the Gothic Quarters, Casa Battlo, Casa Mila, Palau Guell, and a load of other famous places and artworks along with stories and history.

For lunch, we ate 3 courses for £5 at a cute little place in the George Orwell Square. Then that night, in classic Becca and Vin style, we went out out! It was a Tuesday night and quite difficult to find a lively bar or two as most places died out around 12pm, but we stumbled upon a bar called Monkey (I think!) where they were offering 2 free shots, a free cocktail, club entrance and a party bus (which turned out to be just a regular bus LOL), but a really good deal! The club was called Shoko and the music was really good. Prices for drinks however didn’t vary much from London. And we couldn’t find a single McDonalds open at the end of the night, say whaaaat (?!) so we went Spanish style and ended our night with a baguette each. First time for everything!

DAY THREE

We obviously woke up late because we were hungover little rascals, so we got lunch at a little burger place then headed for Park Guell on the metro. The metro is super easy and cheap to use, don’t be afraid to try it. Park Guell was lovely too. We bought our tickets online to see the Gaudi art area of the park because they were cheaper, but you can walk around the main park for free which was lovely too. Our tickets were $6 and deffo worth it, the artwork and architecture is stunning, and it wasn’t too busy, and the skies were blue and sunny!

That evening we headed back to the Gothic Quarters where we ate $1 pinxos and drank wine to celebrate our new jobs woo. You can find this at a little bar called Craft. There’s also lots of vintage shops around here, and we found a huge charity shop where everything was $4, including this big pink coat which is now my fave. Then we ended the night by walking along the seafront and headed back to our hostel for pot noodles. Fab.

DAY FOUR

We literally just got the flight home but one big tip for you! Do not buy food at the airport, I know this seems obvious, but we thought they’d have more choice. It was super overpriced so just buy a sandwich before and save $2 for some water!

So, that’s it lovers! Barcelona was fab, there’s so much to see and do, it’s pretty, there’s sun, a beach, lovely people, great food. I’d definitely recommend it. Feel free to ask me questions. Go book a ticket. Live ya life to the maxxxx.

V

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Save yaself and me £10 by using my code on booking.com: https://www.booking.com/s/34_6/vasush68

And follow me and my adventures on instagram here: https://www.instagram.com/vanishamay/

A day in the life of a volunteer in Mexico

Life’s a beach!

A day in the life of a volunteer

Thinking of volunteering? Want to know more about life in Mexico? Although it’s not this easy everyday, Sunday family days at Mision Mexico are truly the best, and here’s why….!

Australian founders, Pam and Alan Skuse spent many years building Mision Mexico and creating a home filled with love, life and hope. Together they’ve seen hundreds of children from Tapachula and the surrounding areas walk through their doors, even creating a youth transition programme that provides children with a more mature environment with the resources to help with their next stage in life. Combining their love of surf, Pam and Alan regularly took the children to the beach for special family time and fun for everybody. Along with the help of generous donations of surf boards and volunteers giving surf lessons, the children were able to practice riding on the big waves and test out their skills as the first surfers in Tapachula!


Following from this is Pam and Alan’s next great project, Mision Surf. Over the last few years and with the help of many donations, Pam and Alan have built an incredible beach house in the poorer community nearby. The ideas behind the use of the house are endless and inspiring. The house has already served as a place for the local children to come and enjoy free swimming lessons, and our children have also completed an art project that saw them venturing out into the community to paint and create beautiful and bright mural’s. The house also has space for various workshops for the children, guests and the community which will include art, craftsmanship and many more activities. Alongside this, Mision Surf will be a hotel complete with a small restaurant which will provide our children and the people from the community with jobs and training in tourism.

So, they’re the basics and the background of Mision Surf, and that’s where we get to spend every other Sunday together as a family! It’s my favourite day for sure, and my most favourite day during my whole time there was a Sunday beach day.

Mision Mexico has a bonus like no other refuge that I know of. During my time in their home in Tapachula, the family and I would spend every other weekend down at their beach house on the coast Mision Surf. Though it’s no holiday home for the kids, and luckily the beach is only a 30 minute drive, beach Sunday’s definitely feel like a mini-break!


The morning shift starts off with a rush because we need to get 22 kids fed, dressed, ready for the beach and sitting in the cars! The 30-minute journey consists of everyone in the van singing along to whatever’s on the radio! It’s funny, and every child knows most of the words to the Latino music AND the western music that plays. Pure talent. 


My favourite beach day was slightly different to the usual. Usually we spend a few hours at Mision Surf then head home for a family BBQ, the normal chores, TV etc. But on this day, we spent literally all day at the beach house, listening to music, playing in the pool, surfing at the beach and eating almost non-stop whilst drinking Jamaica. It was so much fun, and not once did I hear “I’m bored” or “when are we going home?”. The older boys with the help of Jonathan managed to make sure that everyone got into the pool, by choice or with force! And the sun also shined all day which topped everything (and meant that half of us left looking like lobsters!).

Days at the beach are not just filled with fun but are also incredibly important as a family and for the children. It’s the one day in the week where worries go out of the window and everyone laughs and plays heaps more than usual. The children are given the space to be just children and the day is full of normalcy which is usually natural for most families but with 22 children, days like this take a lot more planning and hard work! All the moments shared on that day, all the love and laughter makes all the effort worth it. It’s days like these where you think you’ve gotta be the luckiest volunteer going! BBQ, beach, surf, swimming pools, fun and sun. What more could you possibly need?!

For all those interested in volunteering or teaching skills through workshops and projects, please don’t hesitate to ask further. You can apply at volunteers@lovelifehope.com! We’re in need of volunteers especially for the holidays throughout the year with the first being this Easter 2018. Must be over 21 and willing to commit for 6 weeks minimum.

Thanks for reading!
Vanisha
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Instagram: @vanishamay and @misionmexicovolunteers
Twitter: @misionmexico
Follow us on Facebook too! @misionmexico
http://www.lovelifehope.com

https://www.facebook.com/MisionMexicoChildren/

Photograph credits to previous volunteers at Mision Mexico**

The troubles of travel. Do you have what it takes?

Thanks to social media and mobile phones, it’s easy to see the glam side of travel. But what you don’t usually see or hear about are the downsides. And although there are many beautiful positives, there are of course many downsides to choosing a life out of a backpack! 


So in my 32nd country and new home of Mexico, I present to you my 3 main pros and cons of travel:

Lack of connection to life back home vs a connection to the world 

Although it’s easier than ever before to sit down in front of your laptop and see your mum from the other side of the world, the connection and life from back home is definitely lost and missed whilst travelling. Being around your friends and family is completely different to constantly being surrounded by strangers and new people. While you’re planning your next trip around the world alone and what backpack to live from, your friends are growing up, settling down with partners, children and in homes for life. Life doesn’t stop back at home and the daily conversation and closeness to the people that I love is one of the only things I miss while I’m away. 

However, you do gain a whole new connection to the world and countries you travel to and people you meet along the way. People change your life and ways of thinking on a daily basis (as well as the few the completely test you!) which is amazing, and inspiring and so worth missing a Sunday dinner or drink down the pub for a while!


The constant need for adventure vs the absence of normality

My last three years in London was the most settled I’d been in a long time and it still wasn’t very settled with a summer in Asia and three house moves! But I loved my routine of work, uni and social life. And it was something I really took for granted before I travelled. It’s a lovely feeling being settled and having a routine, knowing what you’ll be doing next week and having an unpacked room with all your belongings in it. It’s normality that you miss whilst travelling. The ease of being able to pop down to costa for a coffee or doing a food shop in Morrisons, and the little things like a proper duvet and going to the fridge for food! (Lol that my main normalities revolve around bed and food). And then the big things like a monthly pay and regular income…!

But during these days I’d find myself longing to get on a plane again. I loved my life in London but the need to see a new city or two, to be around more exciting and inspiring people, the need to try something new always takes over my need for normality. And so again, I venture across unknown streets and into new shops for cups of coffee. I walk the streets listening to people speaking unknown words and wonder what will happen today. Whether it’s excitingly life-changing   or completely bad luck, every day brings something and someone new which is worth the risk surely?


Wanting to go home VS never giving up

We all have bad days but it’s the home comforts and people around you that always seem to make things better. So, when you’re travelling, all these bad things are quite literally more complicated and harder (because you’re a million miles away!) and always feel 10x worse. Losing my debit cards and camera was tough, inconvenient and gutting, and being ill whilst away is incredibly testing too. Honestly, some days, all you want to do is give up, book that flight home and run into the arms of mum and dad. But at the end of the day, all that’s really lost is a few objects and a few days in bed which could happen back at home too. The experiences and memories that I’ve gained trump my GoPro pictures any day. And alongside that, it makes you realise what’s important, makes you 10x stronger and so much more independent. So, if you can get through these times with a smile on your face and the determination to keep going then guys, you’re smashing it! 

People rarely tell you that loss is a fundamental part of travelling. You’ll experience feelings of loss of normality, chances of love and settling down, opportunities of a normal 9-5 paid career. You’ll feel lost, alone and question what on earth you’re doing. But you’ll find new ways of living, loving and working. You’ll never get the experiences of travel by never leaving your doorstep. And so far, through all the tests and difficulties that I’ve faced, I’ve learned that it’s always worth the risk. 



Catch up with my adventures here on instagram @vanishamay

Thanks for reading guys!

Vanisha

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Machu Picchu and the wonders of Peru

One of my favourite countries in South America so far is Peru and definitely a top place to visit!
We headed straight to Cusco by a long bus ride from La Paz, Bolivia and we spent a lot longer than planned in the historic city of the Incas. We loved it so much! The city itself is pretty and quaint, full of friendly happy people and we finally had hot weather and blue skies every day! We were happy gals! So what did we do? How did we do it? And what makes Peru so special?


How to do Machu Picchu…

So there’s tonnes of different ways to visit the incredible wonder of the world from day trips to four day treks along the inca trail. We booked last minute and committed ourselves to a 3 day adventure trek called the Inca Jungle Trek. It was so much fun and a completely different way to work your way up to Machu Picchu. By bus we passed through villages in the sacred valley and the Andes mountains, we walked, mountain biked, zip-lined, white water rafted and hiked up to the top of Machu Picchu Mountain. Whilst mountain biking we passed through clouds, we zip-lined across rivers and on top of the mountain we saw Machu Picchu city in all its glory surrounded by the valleys and mountains. It was amazing and all at a pretty good price of around £200 which was a huge relief as average tours to Machu Picchu cost around £500-£600.It was all incredible and was made better by staying in hotels rather than camping. Aguas Calientes is the main starting point when visiting Machu Picchu and even that little town is full of wonder with a train track running through it and the mountains surrounding it. 


We only stayed in Lima, Aguas Calientes and Cusco but Peru was one of our favourite countries for so many reasons. And there’s so much more to do! I’ll definitely be visiting again in the future to conquer rainbow mountain, sand board down the famous dunes and to visit pretty little Arequipa. But thanks to the people that we met there, the hostels we stayed in, the yummy food we ate, the amazing sights and finally the sunny weather, Peru definitely left it’s mark on us. 


Here’s a little list of places to visit in and around Cusco:

 • Visit Machu Picchu, obviously.

 • See the llama’s! They so funny. They so cute. 

 • Go shopping for the colourful clothing, alpaca jumpers and accessories in the cute markets with the cholitas.

 • Check out Cusco’s chocolate museum where you can get classes, freebies and chocolate liquers!

 • Stay at Inka Wild Hostel in Cusco! Good location, good vibes and good backpacker prices!

 • Visit the sacred valley, and pretty Aguas Calientes but avoid day tours and make your own way around. Our day tour around the valley was ridiculous and rushed all day with the guides shouting ‘vamos’ every five seconds… Lol.

 • Party at Chango’s and dance the night away to the amazing Latino music! 


You can use this code to get £10 off when booking through booking.com 🙂 http://booking.com/s/vanish15
Follow my adventure here on instagram @vanishamay 

Thanks for reading guys! 

Vanisha  

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is a land of beauty. Unlike India, Sri Lanka has all the wonder and culture but without the crazy busy and bustle. I visited Sri Lanka in 2014 after six months living and working in China. It had a perfect balance of relaxation and with enough things to do and see. Plus, it was incredibly cheap and luxurious!

Our amazing view from the hotel room, what’s not to love with this?!

Colombo

Colombo was the typical hustle and bustle capital you’d expect. I stayed in a cool hostel where the staff were lovely and helped me out a lot (can’t remember the name of it so not much good to ya) but Colombo itself was just okay. I went to the zoo one day, and that wasn’t a great experience, and I didn’t see much else to be honest! Maybe I missed out on stuff, but Colombo wasn’t one of my highlights. Also, as a young female traveler, I did feel unsafe at certain times and wouldn’t have felt safe wondering around at night. There was one incident in day light where a man followed me for a while after stopping me and trying to talk to me, I had to get in a tuk-tuk back to the hostel. People were otherwise pretty friendly!

 

Tangalle

Luckily, Tangalle and all the other places we visited changed it all. We stayed in an absolutely stunning hotel with the most amazing staff, but the area was secluded, there wasn’t much to do locally and the sea at that time of year was too dangerous to even put a toe in! However, if a perfect hideout is what you’re looking for, Lagoon Paradise Beach Resort is the place for you! We were warned by the staff to stay out of the sea and rightly so because one man almost drowned with his son and needed rescuing after going in, and I erm, also got caught by surprise while I was walking along feet depth, attacked by an under-current, swept away with a wave, fully clothed and wearing my backpack which had my passport, purse, phone and Ipod in it… not ideal but I can laugh now! RIP Ipod.

I was quite lucky making friends with our tuk-tuk driver, who arranged for me to visit a local school one day. The ride there was lovely, we passed through rice fields and beautiful scenery. It was a lovely little experience; the children and teachers were so welcoming and allowed me to sit in on some of their classes and played games with me. They were all so excited to see me, but so keen to learn still. It definitely puts things into perspective.

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Sitting in on a class at the village school I visited for the day.
Pinnawala Elephant Sanctuary

The day at the elephant sanctuary was incredible. We got to see loads of elephants being washed, fed and walking through the towns and rivers. The scenes were just like from jungle book! It was lovely just to watch them and be around them, highly recommend this sanctuary.

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The elephants at Pinnawala!
Udawalawe National Park

This was another day trip, and it was spectacular, but a slight let down at the same time. We did see a black bear, mother and baby elephant and snakes in their wild habitats, which was amazing, but for a day in the scorching sun and in the back of a jeep, it was a pretty longgg day!

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Our beautiful hotel and them views….
Kandy

We just spent one day in the city, with a hired driver who knew all the sights, how to get there, where to eat and how much to pay. He drove us to the top of the mountain to the huge Bahiravokanda Vihara Buddha Statue which overlooked the city and Kandy Lake. We also spent time at the temple of tooth and temples around it, and watched a local show. The country is full of culture and religion, it’s beautiful.

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Buddha overlooking Kandy, Sri Lanka
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Kandy, Sri Lanka
All in all, Sri Lanka was lovely. For a chilled trip surrounded by beauty and culture, it’s perfect. I’d love to go back one day and explore more, I feel like it has so much more to offer still…

Me finally enjoying the sea! 

India

India is a country that will forever intrigue me and one of the reasons it’s in my top 10 favourite places in the World.

I may be slightly biased (because I’m half Indian!) but I think the country has so much to offer. It’s so full of contrasts which tug on every emotion. When I visited Goa, it wasn’t overly tourist, which meant that some days, we were almost the only people on the beaches, and they were some of the best I’d ever seen. They had completely untouched sands, along with 10/10 hospitality and the loveliest people all around.

However, the calmness and beauty were worlds away from the hustle and bustle of mad Mumbai. I saw my first ever slums here, and we were surrounded by extreme poverty, and millions of people in desperate need. My family and I attended a wedding here, and you could feel the difference between our lives and those around me. The film Slumdog Millionaire is exactly what India is like. Expect disabled children begging at your taxi window and lots of heartbreaking situations that leave you feeling quite helpless and privileged.

It’s an eye opener for sure, and writing my dissertation on the country has left me with so many more questions that are waiting to be explored and answered! I’ll be fully content when the time comes to travel, volunteer and stay in India properly! If anyone wants to join me….